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Bacteria are "in"

Market "healthy" bacteria. Skin bacteria, stomach/mouth bacteria, large intestine bacteria.

Spray some bacteria on your socks and no more stinky feet.
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  • Carbon fiber fabric. Used for making very stiff, strong, lightweight panels. My understanding is that the aircraft industry has first dibs on all production. Also, the quality requirements for aircraft are far higher than for, say, automotive body panels. This means that carbon fiber panels are a lot more expensive than they should be.
  • Aerogels. Would make *terrific* insulated windows. They would have a higher R value than the wall that they're set in. I think that with the latest aerogel technology, you could get a solid object that is lighter than air by filling them with hydrogen or helium. Great demo!
  • Blue LEDs.  They shouldn't work, but they do.  Figure out why.  Semiconductors depend on the perfection of their crystal structure to work.  Blue/UV LEDs are just jam-packed with imperfections, but they still work.  If you could get rid of the imperfections, they'd probably work a lot better.
  • High-temperature superconductors.  The theory still isn't worked out very well, and "traditional" applications are difficult (you can't draw them into wires, for example).  Magnetic levitation is a possibility.  Energy storage?  Motors? Put a big current through it, drop the temperature to the critical point, and you've got a "permanent magnet" that might be able to compete with rare-earth magnets.
 
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Analog Science Fiction, March 1966.  Painting by John Schoenherr 
Greg Bear talks about meteorites.

I get a kick out of the fact that the definitive article on very large oceanic meteorite impacts was published in "Analog Science Fiction". (The picture with the CNN article above is the cover of that issue of Analog.)

Also, it seems that all the attention goes to "asteroids". Asteroids are hunks of rock orbiting the sun, in the ecliptic, just like planets. As such, their orbits can be predicted for decades or centuries in advance. If we sight one that's going to hit us, we have a lot of time to figure out what to do about it.

If you want something to *really* worry about, think about long-period comets. They come in from a long way out, moving effectively at solar escape velocity, and can come in at any angle, not just in the ecliptic. If one of these came in on a collision course, how much warning would we have? I've poked at it a bit; my calculus is no longer up to it. My guess is no more than a couple of years, depending on how far out it was sighted. That isn't enough time to set up committees to talk about it ...

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Sous-vide is one of the latest "molecular gastronomy" cooking involves vacuum sealing food in plastic and cooking at a low temperature for a long time.  All the juices are sealed in.  Bacteria get killed by a long time at a relatively low temperature as well as a short time at a high temperature.  In general, being "cooked" means that the food is heated to the appropriate temperature.  *How* the food is heated is largely irrelevant.

The main problems with Sous-vide are
  • It takes a long time.  In the restaurant business, time is money.
  • Temperature control is critical
  • You need special equipment -- at least a thermostatically- controlled water bath and a food-grade vacuum sealer. 
As a result,
sous-vide is pretty much limited to super high-end restaurants.

So here's the idea:  Take prime portion-controlled meat, poultry, and fish, give it the
sous-vide treatment, and ship the cooked meat to restaurants.  The restaurants take the already cooked meat and apply finishing touches (browning, sauces, etc) and serve it forth.

Since the meat is already cooked, it shouldn't even need refrigeration.

Note that this is not intended as a "cheap" item (there's no money in cheap stuff unless you sell a lot of it.  As in national distribution).  It lets high-end restaurants serve stuff normally reserved for ultra-high end eateries.

I'm obviously never going to do anything with this -- messing with health departments is Not My Thing.  The days when you could bottle your own sauce and sell it out of your garage are long gone.  If I were going to try that, I'd be selling Salsa Llaja.

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This is a topic that I don't really know all that much about.  Corrections welcome.  This is very much a work in progress.

Speech recognition sucks.  There's been a lot of research; why isn't it any better?

Speech consists of an assortment of hisses and buzzes that are interpreted by the brain.  The current software approach is to try to go directly from the basic noises to words, using software brute force:
sound → words
Seems to me, if we break this process down, we can get a lot more accuracy.  The tool that linguists use is the "international phonetic alphabet" (IPA), which expresses individual phonemes:
sound → IPA → words

This gives us, right at the start, speaker independence.

For that first step, we can use something I call "predictive filtering" (I'm sure there's a "real" name for it).  We classify the sounds coming in to one of a finite set of "base sounds"; some small combination of buzzes and hisses that make up a specific sound.  To combine these base sounds into a phoneme, we look at the set of all possible sequences of base sounds that start with that base.
  1. Get initial base sound
  2. Generate set of all possible sequences starting with that base
  3. Cache the "most probable" sequence(s)
  4. Get the next base sound
  5. Prune off the sequences that don't have that sound as their second element
  6. Cache "most probable"
  7. Continue until we have a single sequence matching a single phoneme.
  8. Output phoneme
  9. Go to step 1
Generating the set of sequences and the pruning process will parallelize like crazy.  It's a classic map-reduce function.  We're doing our pattern matching one small step at a time.  Also, I expect the set of sequences to converge very rapidly; most steps will simply verify the input against the "expected value" in the cache.

This filtering technique can also be used for going from IPA to words.


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So Google is coming out with "virtual reality" goggles  that project computer data onto whatever you're looking at; sort of a personal "heads up display".  These have actually been around for at least fifteen years, but they've been very awkward and expensive.

I've wondered for a long time why the computer display people don't do more with optical systems.  For example, when Osborne came out with the first "portable" computer, the biggest complaint was that the screen was tiny.  However, it was very clear and bright.  You could get the effect of a much larger screen by simply putting a Fresnel lens over the display.  But nobody did it.  Nobody even tried it and reported that it didn't work.

It'd seem to me that, with an integrated design (ie, one not tied to existing display hardware) that you could get the effect of a very large screen with a tiny display and an optical system generating a virtual image.  It would have a very narrow angle of view, but for a laptop or palmtop, this is an advantage -- think of privacy.  You want wide angle viewing?  Get a projector.  The only problem I see is that the angle of view for practical optics would be too small -- it obviously has to be more than the angle subtended by your eyes.  (Unless you wanted to go 3D.  Hmmm ...)

Another optical system that I've wondered about is with DSLRs.  These have both the traditional "moving mirror and penta roof prism" of the film SLR and a digital sensor.  You get a digital image on a screen on the back of the camera, plus a "through the lens" optical view through the eyepiece.  Seems to me you could eliminate the moving mirror (mechanically complex and puts severe constraints on lens design) and the penta roof prism (honkin' big piece of precision glass) and replace it with a simple electronic display and a couple of lenses.  You have to have an electronic display there anyway to show status info and such.

Topic for research -- how small can you make an electronic display with a decent (720P) resolution?  The main area of research seems to be in making them bigger.

ETA:  Turns out that there are SLR-like cameras that work as I described -- they're called "mirrorless" or "brdge" cameras.  Most of them look sort of SLR-like with a honkin' big zoom lens.  Fuji even makes one that looks like a Leica M4 (IMHO the best 35mm camera ever made), but it costs a small fortune.

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